Boykin v. Alabama
395 U.S. 238 (1969)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1969)

Boykin v. Alabama

No. 642

Argued March 4, 1969

Decided June 2, 1969

395 U.S. 238

Syllabus

Petitioner, a 27-year-old Negro, who was represented by appointed counsel, pleaded guilty to five indictments for common law robbery. The judge asked no questions of petitioner concerning his plea, and petitioner did not address the court. Under Alabama law providing for a jury trial to fix punishment on a guilty plea, the prosecution presented eyewitness testimony and petitioner's counsel cursorily cross-examined. Petitioner did not testify; no character or background testimony was presented for him, and there was nothing to indicate that he had a prior criminal record. The jury found petitioner guilty and sentenced him to death on each indictment. The Alabama Supreme Court reviewed the sentences under the State's automatic appeal statute for capital cases, which requires the reviewing court to comb the record for prejudicial error even though not raised by counsel. Petitioner did not raise the question of the voluntariness of his guilty plea, and the State Supreme Court did not pass on that question, though a majority of the court explicitly considered it in affirming his sentences of death.

Held:

1. This Court has jurisdiction to review the question of the voluntary character of the plea, since the plain error of the trial judge's acceptance of petitioner's guilty plea absent an affirmative showing that the plea was intelligent and voluntary was before the state court under the Alabama automatic appeal statute. Pp. 395 U. S. 241-242. ,

2. A waiver of the privilege against compulsory self-incrimination guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment and applicable to the States by the Fourteenth; of the right to trial by jury, and the right to confront one's accusers -- all of which are involved when a guilty plea is entered in a state criminal trial -- cannot be presumed from a silent record. Pp. 395 U. S. 242-243.

3. Acceptance of the petitioner's guilty plea under the circumstances of this case constituted reversible error because the record does not disclose that the petitioner voluntarily and understandingly entered his plea of guilty. Pp. 395 U. S. 243-244.

281 Ala. 659, 207 So.2d 412, reversed.

Page 395 U. S. 239

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